Street preacher 'delighted and relieved' after 'misgendering' conviction overturned

Dave McConnell has won his appeal.(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

A street preacher has spoken of his relief after successfully appealing his conviction over alleged 'misgendering'.

Dave McConnell was arrested while street preaching in Leeds City Centre on 8 June 2021 after referring to a biological male presenting as a woman as 'he'.

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which has supported Mr McConnell in his case, said there were no other arrests during the exchange despite the fact that the street preacher had been verbally abused, physically assaulted and had some of his street preaching equipment stolen. 

Mr McConnell was subsequently prosecuted and convicted despite there being no UK law compelling the use of preferred pronouns. He was also reported to the government's anti-terrorism scheme, Prevent.

Following his conviction last year, he was ordered to pay costs of £620 and complete 80 hours of community service. 

At a hearing on Thursday, Leeds Crown Court overturned his conviction after finding that while Mr McConnell had caused distress to the complainant, this had not been intended. 

The court added that "it is not an offence to insult someone" and that Mr McConnell "was not intending distress, just repeating what he genuinely believed to be the Bible's teaching".

"We live in a time of free speech," the court added. 

During Thursday's hearing, Mr McConnell was asked whether he knew that 'misgendering' a trans person could be insulting.

In response, he told the court: "I wasn't misgendering, I was telling the truth.

"I think people could have been offended but that's not the intention. My intention was to simply stay faithful to my beliefs, stay faithful to God and to stay faithful to my conscience."

He added: "I wasn't being transphobic; I was expressing what I believe."

Commenting on the verdict, Mr McConnell said he was "delighted and relieved" that his conviction was overturned but "appalled" at how the authorities had treated him. 

"No other street preacher, professional or member of the public must go through what I have," he said. 

"'Misgendering' is not a crime and should never be treated as such. I do not believe I was 'misgendering', I believed I was telling the truth.

"How I was treated was totally unreasonable and should concern anyone who cares about Christian freedoms and free speech in this country." 

CLC chief executive Andrea Williams said, "No one should go through what he has for stating biological fact.

"This case has represented a disturbing trend in our society which is seeing members of the public and professionals being prosecuted and reported as potential terrorists for refusing to celebrate and approve LGBTQ ideology.

"Police forces who fly pride flags from their headquarters are failing to provide Christian preachers with impartial protection. If a person cries ''offence' at a street preacher's words, it's the street preacher that is punished and taken out. This is deeply illiberal.

"The Bible teaches clearly that we are born male and female; this belief and the freedom to express it in public without fear of being arrested or reported as a terrorist to Prevent must be protected.

"Dave is a kind and caring man, who loves Jesus, and wants members of the public to know about the truth of the Christian faith which has transformed his life."